Jam - Part 1
Congratulations! You, Miss A. Lyddell have been specially selected to receive this unique and once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity! A small investment now will yield you £ 000’s in the future! Imagine sitting on a warm beach somewhere, sipping champagne! That could be you in a few years time, Miss A Lyddell. Act today!
Alice snorted and dropped the junk mail into the recycling box, wondering as she always did what the postmen thought of all their efforts transporting, sorting and delivering this stuff which no-one wants to read.
“Once in a lifetime“? Huh. Well I hope I live longer than next week when I’ll get yet another “unique and once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity,” she thought. They only want my money, and what are they offering?
Nothing now, just jam tomorrow. And they can’t even spell my name right.
She filled the kettle and set it to boil whilst she went upstairs for a quick shower before returning to the kitchen, making tea and toast on autopilot, fetching the margarine settling down to breakfast, scratching a smooth yellow layer onto her toast and twisting the sticky lid of a nearly empty marmalade jar.
A pungent alcoholic fug assaulted her nostrils as the cap lifted from the marmalade. Yuk! "Perhaps I should have kept it in the fridge," she mused, fetching a new pot from the cupboard, this time strawberry jam, and giving the lid a twist.
It didn’t budge.
She tried harder, concentrating this time, squeezing her soft hands as hard as possible against the unyielding lid. A cloth didn’t help, so she let it sit unawares on the table relaxing in its own smug superiority before she mounted a swift attack, trying to catch it by surprise.
That didn’t work either.
She began to wish that she’d got one of those things her mother had for opening jars, but quickly dismissed it; the modern house seemed doomed to fill itself with tools which have a single use, and she wasn’t about to get another.
A glance at the clock spurred her to cunning and Alice poured the dregs of hot water from the kettle onto the lid, hoping to use brain where brawn had failed, though granted, she wasn‘t particularly well blessed with the latter. She took a firm grip on the pot and twisted with all her strength. She held her breath and struggled, and just as a slight darkness began to appear on the edges of her vision and she thought that she might faint with the effort it surrendered with a satisfying pop.
"There. I don’t need one of those things Mum’s got after all. What was it called again? A man?"
Two slices later and she was on her way to work, struggling with the crowds on the tube, arriving at work on time but not without the perpetual worry of lateness.
There was a dictaphone tape on her desk, reports from the surveyor which needed typing up before he came in later in the morning, so she set to with less than her usual vigour. It wasn’t raining, but she agreed with the Boomtown Rats if not quite Karen Carpenter about Mondays.
Reports finished and she carried on with the rest of her myriad duties, slowly warming into the day. It was nearly lunchtime when Bill the surveyor appeared at her desk with the reports in his hand.
“You want them posted out now you’ve signed them?” she asked by routine.
“Ah, no, there’s a mistake, the date’s wrong. Look, you’ve put yesterday’s date on it.”
“Sorry. I’ll just fix it.” she said, taking the sheaf, checking over her mistake.
“But that is today’s date.” Alice was suddenly confused, Bill wasn’t normally wrong about things like that.
“No it’s not,” he rebuffed her kindly. “It’s Tuesday 10th. Look, you’ve not turned your calendar over today.” He reached down and tore off today’s’ date revealing the new, and erroneous Tuesday 10th.
How far do you go in correcting your boss’s errors? Alice opted for ‘not very far’ and with some bemusement made her lips stutter something in agreement with him despite her brain telling her otherwise. Bill moved away allowing Alice to check the date at the bottom of her computer screen. There it was, Tuesday 10th. What was going on? Was it some kind of practical joke?
She called with affected casualness to Sue on the next desk, “What’s the date today,” hoping, hoping that the answer would be otherwise than that which she knew with a kind of depressing certainty, it would be.
Alice took herself off to the coffee room in some distress. What was happening? Was it really Tuesday? What had happened to yesterday? Her troubles were certainly not far away now. She couldn’t remember Monday at all. The weekend had been a pleasant one and she’s gone to bed last night as normal. A newspaper was lying on the coffee room table confirming her fears and she almost ran to the Ladies, trying to hide the rising panic within her. She splashed some water on her face regardless of the damage it might do to her make-up and tried to catch her breath, calm herself down. Was she going slightly mad? They often joked that you’d have to be mad to work in this place, but this was serious. Perhaps she needed a second opinion. The company nurse? Surely she couldn’t help, but who else was there?
Alice dragged her feet to the sick room and opened the door to see the nurse sitting writing something. There was a small unfinished knitted garment on the side of the desk, impaled by a tarantula of wicked looking needles. It gave the impression of having been put down suddenly.
The nurse was an imposing white haired woman on the wrong side of sixty who could be rather stern. Everyone called her “Mrs White” even the boss, and never, never was she addressed by her Christian name which Alice didn’t even know. She looked as if she had seen everything. Not this though, thought Alice.
“What’s up Alice? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Mrs White asked not unkindly, waving Alice in and to a chair. Alice sat down and found herself unable to speak. It seemed so foolish.
... to be continued.
By Penny Dreadful